Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The Best Sight of Spring.

Got my first potatoes in this afternoon - a row outside and also four in large containers. I know the tradition is to plant them at easter, but easter falls at different time each year anyway! and besides the weather at present is more like early summer than spring.
My tomato seedlings were also devided into seperate pots, some being returned to the window sills and some left out in the greenhouse. I left one out overnight last night as tester to see if the nightime temperature was not to low for them and it was in perfect condition this morning, though I am still a little worried that we might still get a slight frost, so the ones on the window sills are the pick of the crop as a insurance pollicy.
This afternoon though I saw the best sight of spring - the first asparagus spear poking through the soil. A very welcome sight as this year is the first time I will be able to eat it from this new bed since moving and leaving my old asparagus plants behind - the only problem is that I am going away tomorrow for the weekend, so I think these first spears may have been picked and eaten by the time I return on monday.
No point in them being saved for my return as they are at there very best cooked imeditately after picking, and besides I hope this spear is the first of many over the next month or so.
Asparagus recipies hopefully to follow in the next month or two.

A Walk over Twyford Down.

Entrance to White Lane.

Saturday was a real nice hot spring day, more like early summer than spring, and finally got to do the walk over Twyford Down.
We parked the car in Twyford, deciding it was best to get the road part of the walk done at the start, then headed west out of Twyford along the B3335 towards Winchester. Just after you leave Twyford the road dips down and turns to the left, to the right on this corner is a holloway called White Lane that leads you straight up onto Twyford down. As you reach the summit of the down the holloway peters out and you continue along the footpath with hedges on either side eventually coming along side Hockley Golf Club.
So much wild life around - Coma butterflies were basking in the sun on the chalk path by our feet, and as we were just about vear away from the golf course I heard a bird song that was very unfamiliar to me. Luckily after a minute or so of watching the undergrowth I spotted the bird and just as it disappeared into the brambles I got a glimps of the unmistakable head of a blackcap.
We walked on for another five or ten minutes until the footpath cross the Pilgrim trail and turned right and headed west along it. You eventualy cross Hazeley Down and come out onto the road which we crossed and headed in the same direction up Mare Lane. When you reach Downstead House turn right again and join the Monarch's Way. This part is through fields and looking over the hedge to your right you have great views back over Hazeley and Twyford Downs. There was also a lot of wild violets in full bloom along this stretch of the walk including some very pale ones which on first sight looked white - I had never seen wild violets this colour before.
Just before you reach the Twyford Pumping Station a footpath on your left takes you over the last field joing the road oposite Love Lane, unfortunately not another holloway, but a nice track road that you can follow back in Twyford.
In total the walk took two hours and a very steady pace with the occasional pause to view the wild life.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Butterflied mackerel.

An afternoon off work so got out into the garden to spread a load of manure over the raspberries as they are beginning to shoot - we are very lucky because the field behind us is used for keeping horses and the owners happily pile the manure on the other side of the hedge to our garden so we can hop over and collect it anytime. So the raspberries, chard, garlic and other things got three barrow loads spread around them.
Managed to get some seed sown in the greenhouse as well - hyssop (which I have never grown before), more thyme (I find I never have enough fresh thyme!) and chanced my arm on sowing some more chervil, despite the packet saying May sewing is best.
Dinner was a butterflied mackerel. I checked out a few recipes in various books Elisabeth David, Moro, and a great Jenny Baker cook book I got years ago called Kettle Broth to Gooseberry Fool.
I settled on the Moro one as the others tended to go for the classic pairings like gooseberry and rhubarb, none of which are in season.
I have never butterflied a fish before but it seemed easy enough. As the fish monger had gutted it and taken the head off all I had to do was cut through to the backbone, spreading the fish out and then carefully remove it without cutting the fish in half. The Moro recipe said to then season the fish and oven cook for 8-10mins in a lightly oiled pan then sprinkle with finely chopped garlic, sweet paprika and parsley. I decided to sprinkle the garlic on before cooking as raw garlic no matter how finely chopped didn't sound to my tastes.
Even after 10 mins of oven cooking and only a light sprinkling of garlic the garlic was a bit strong for my tastes and I think next time I cook this recipe I will leave the garlic out or used garlic infused oil.
With the bright green of the fresh parsley and the deep earthy red of the paprika sprinkled over the mackerel it was, I must say, a very attractive dish.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Not a woodpecker.

 Out in the garden today again as we cancelled our plans to go walking around Twyford due to uncertain weather. I am keen to do a circular walk north west out of Twyford and loop back east as I have seen what I think are a couple of holloways leading off the main road while busing into Winchester, but more about that after I do the walk.
At first I thought it was a woodpecker, but surely not as it was nowhere near loud enough and obviously very close - it was in fact a Great Tit sitting on the perch of one our nest boxes (we have five up plus a new house sparrow terrace this year). It was tapping away furiously trying to entice its mate into the box.
The other boxes with smaller holes were also being checked out by blue tits though I have not seen any taking in nesting materials yet. In fact i have not noticed any birds building yet. Must take an hour out sometime and watch a little closer as I am sure the Robins and Blackbirds must be building somewhere by now.
In the veg garden I managed to dig in some compost and rotted down horse manure and plant out spinach and winter gem lettuce which have been in pots in the green house as I used the greenhouse as you would a cold frame this winter - why have I never done this before? as the results were great lettuce, lambs lettuce, parsley, chervil, spring onions etc etc to eat most of the winter, and have given other things a real head start this spring.
First leaves now appearing on the currant bushes outside as well as first shoots appearing on the lovage plants - lots of things to be getting on the with in the coming weeks - I have decided to try and grow our three gooseberry bushes up and train them along a wooden frame (something I saw in a garden we visited last summer on one of the NGS open days) as this will save space - hope I can make it work as well as the ones I saw.
An aching back this afternoon as I spent an hour or so weeding grass etc out of the small chamomile lawn on top of the bank, still not got it all out and think it maybe an on going battle for the rest of the year!
Little sign of any of shoots appearing yet in any of the seeds I planted both out in the greenhouse or on the window sills - just one broad bean shoot so far. I put these in a few weeks back to replace the ones killed by the frost (the packet said frost resistant and the ones last winter survived worse conditions!!!), but hey ho that's the way it goes from year to year.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Springing into life.

Spring is finally arriving here - so many things shooting up in the garden and greenhouse. The fennel has been growing happly outdoors for a few weeks now (I have got a piece of pork marinading in fennel leaves) and the primroses and celandine have also been in flower for a long time.
The  Snake's head fritillary blubs I planted in the autumn have started to appear outside around the apple tree, which is a relief as its the first time I have planted any. Three appeared so far so hoping the rest have survived the winter too.
In the veg garden the Gooseberry bushes have started to show leaves and the strawberries are coming into life.
Got a lot of work ahead in the next few months as I am laying new paths through the veg garden (gravel with wooden edging) to the greenhouse, and have lots of things that have over wintered in pots in the greenhouse that need planting out - Horseradish, Letuce, Spinach, Chervil, Artichokes etc.
Indoors the tomato seedlings are already a couple of inches high, though the chillies have not appeared yet, so have to create some space inside the greenhouse by the end of April for the toms and chillies.
First post!

I have created this blog to share places I go and things I do.
I love to garden esp interested in veg growing and wild flowers and try to create a animal / bird friendly garden as much as possible.
I also love to cook, hence the veg growing. I try to keep things as simple and as fresh and seasonal as possible most of the time , but occasionally like to go the extra mile.
I also love to walk and explore the countryside and am a casual bird watcher and have been sice childhood.
My latest "thing" for walking is to try and discover and walk the ancient holloway's of southern England - Hampshire, Dorset and Sussex.